When it comes to company loyalty, it is a road that goes both ways, and Southlake Auto Mall has set the standard. Michael Kors has been running the dealership since 1976 and knows a thing or two about loyalty from his time in the business, with employees that have stayed with the company for many years. This is due, in large part, to Kors' time-tested leadership in the car world and the amazing work environment that has been cultivated at Southlake Auto.
David Wastson, also referred to as Doc, and Ralph Stokes are two prime examples of Southlake employees, with over 50 years of combined experience in the field, these two men have been with Southlake for 28 and 24 years respectively. Working as detailers in the shop, Doc and Stokes have a strong commitment to their jobs and are dedicated to making the cars they work on look as pristine as possible for the customer.
"We make sure everything is presentable for sale. Everything from the front bumper to the back, interior, exterior, to the engine and the carpets," explained Doc of their position.
"Once the mechanic does what he does, we take over from there," continued Stokes.
As for what the best chemicals are to get the job done, that answer can vary from what part of the car is being detailed, but Doc and Stokes know all the tools of the trade.
"It's an ancient Chinese secret," joked Stokes, "Honestly though, the best chemical will always have some elbow grease behind it; you have to put the work in."
Both men have certainly put the work in at Southlake, with Doc starting in early 1990 and Stokes in 1993. Staying on with a company for such a large span of time doesn't generally happen unless that place of work is pretty extraordinary.
"They were looking for an experienced detailer and they hired me on September 25th, 1990. The atmosphere seemed really exciting and it still is. It is a great place to work and some great people to work with. Any problems that come up always seem to get resolved by talking and learning from each other. It is a great dealership, we have outings together for Christmas and other things. Our Saturday lunches are always great too," explained Doc.
"Mike was the first person I saw when I came here. He was outside plowing the snow! I came here getting parts for another dealership and I said, 'Sir, are you hiring?' He looked at my shirt and asked where I was working at and he directed me inside and said they probably could get me in there today." explained Stokes. "I really wanted to be at Nissan with them, rather than the place I was working at. Long story short: I came back six months later and spoke with him and he told me to speak to the general manager, and I've been here ever since."
As for what makes the dealership so special, both men can attest that the excellent work culture and the way that it is passed on to customers is part of what makes Southlake so exceptional.
"You build customer relationships over the years. In fact, there is a guy who came in here in the early 90s and he still comes here, the same customer, still coming back here. The whole atmosphere of people; it is just a wonderful place to be," explained Stokes.
"Without the customers, we wouldn't be here," stated Doc.
As for the craziest cars they have ever detailed in their line of work? Some unique cars have passed through the garage over the years.
"The craziest was probably an old hearse, and we have had some monster trucks too, with humongous tires," said Doc.
"Michael [Kors] has a semi-truck as well, and I have detailed that bumper to bumper!" said Stokes.
4191 E Lincoln Hwy, Merrillville, IN 46410
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